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What's New in 2021
(photo: Mt Hutt, May 14 2021)

If the 2020 ski season seems like a blur and just a distant memory, well, that’s understandable. Thankfully, the 2021 ski season is nearly upon us here in New Zealand, and it’s been a (surprisingly) busy summer for a number of ski areas, with several huge developments.  Let’s take a look at what’s been happening around the country, and what the 2021 ski season will bring.

Mt Hutt, a new chairlift!

The biggest news for 2021 is of course the new Nor’west Express – New Zealand’s first 8-seater detachable express lift. It’s a multimillion dollar investment, replacing the old Exhibition Quad which had served the area for 30 years. While in the same location as the old Quad, there are a number of benefits:

  • A shorter ride, 2 minutes down from 7 minutes
  • 3,000 people an hour moved, up from 1500
  • A cable de-icing system, meaning hopefully faster opening times
  • Chair swing dampeners allowing for operation in higher winds

Overall, a very exciting development and a fabulous upgrade which should see more people moved more quickly, with less downtime due to weather. 

Other upgrades include rockwork on the Bluffs to make the road safer, a new snowmaking bore delivering 50% more water to the snowmaking reservoir, extensive trapping and native planting over the summer to help bring back the Kea, and we’re sure just a ton of other usual summer maintenance.

Cardrona, a new but old chair …

The other big news is down at Cardrona, the old McDougals/Pringles Chair is now the Willows Chair! After the “lizard incident”, Cardrona had to come up with a new location, and Willows it was, which is fabulous news as this delivers around 65ha of new terrain, the first new terrain to open in NZ in years.  In 2021 we’ll also see Valley View open again, and between this and Willows we’ll hopefully see guests more spread out over the mountain. But it’s not just lifts at Cardrona, there’s a few other “behind the scenes" upgrades, many focusing on the environmental impacts:

  • Wastewater plants are now all connected to the Cardrona Valley – 12km of pipeline
  • They have added another power cable, and fibre, from the valley floor to cater for future upgrades
  • And then there are some specific environmental changes, notably …
  • Free shuttles from the bottom of the mountain, to help save emissions and congestion
  • Top car park is now only for cars with over 3 passengers, single parents with kids, and adaptive users
  • More focus on waste reduction, no landfill rubbish on the mountain, more recycling

Treble Cone, the most picturesque toilet!

This is now the second season Cardrona has owned TC, well, let’s call it the first, as surely last year didn’t count! The plan as we understand was to get a handle on the challenges the mountain presents, work to resolve them, and then look at an upgrade programme. So it’s not surprising this season to see a focus on infrastructure, things that really don’t excite the average snow user, but which are vital to ensure the ski area runs efficiently. So, this season, TC has ...

  • Commissioned a new generator, helping ensure more power reliability
  • Improved hydro generation, in conjunction with a local farmer
  • Installed 550m of snow making pipe, 6 new guns, lower easy rd
  • Built a new toilet block at the Saddle, now the most picturesque flushable toilets!
  • And then finally, like Cardrona, they are implementing the same environmental initiatives around parking and waste.

The Remarkables, post lift install recovery

Of course the big news last year was the new Sugar Bowl lift, quite an achievement given COVID and all! So it’s not surprising this season to see a number of further enhancements, namely …

  • Finishing off the Sugar Bowl Basin development by widening Cross Fall trail to 45m and Serpentine trail to 25m
  • Installing 6 more fan snow guns and 18 lance snow guns along Cross Fall and Serpentine trails
  • Increasing car parking capacity at the base of the mountain access road
  • Improving reliability of power supply to the base building, stage 2 of a 3 stage process
  • Planting over 800 native trees in a 1ha plot along the access road

Coronet Peak, big snow making upgrades

It’s been a couple of years since Coronets big upgrade, 2019 in fact when the new Coronet Express was installed.  This season, like many ski areas, the focus has been on the environment and better waste management, delivering better environmental outcomes. In 2012 then, there’s a lot behind the scenes, or underground, or covered in snow!

  • Upgrading snowmaking 650m of pipe lines to ensure consistent and reliable snowmaking throughout winter. This is part of an ongoing program to replace all the older pipes  
  • New $1 million wastewater treatment plant to improve environmental outcomes
  • A new ‘self serve’ area in the base building for those bringing a picnic, including a hot water boiler and seating.
  • A new Montana Twister ski tuning robot
  • Planting over 3,000 native tussocks and hebes to regenerate trails

Mt Ruapehu, maintenance heaven

Last year Ruapehu had a few challenges, on top, or because of, COVID. This year, boom, all done! Sounds like there has been a ton of maintenance and replacements, so let's hope everything is all go, weather and snow permitting. Over the summer the team ...

  • Shortened and respliced the Sky Waka cable
  • Pulled new cables on the High Noon, Knoll T-Bar, and Double Happy chair
  • Gave the West Ridge Quad a new gearbox and mechanical rebuild
  • Installed a new drive into the Valley T
  • All lifts serviced
  • Guest flow improved in some areas
  • And in 2021 bookable parking is back, but only for 6 weekends (July 31 - Sept 5), and life/anytime season pass holders don’t need to book

Around the smaller areas, yep, there’s always something to do and we’ll progressively update. The likes of Porters for example, more snow making, and improvements in online and off mountain purchasing. Mt Cheeseman, upgrades to the kitchen areas, and a new (well, new to them) winch cat!

All up, some very exciting changes this season with new lifts, full maintenance schedules, so we should see the mountains operating at 100% capacity, COVID levels permitting.

And with early snow and cold temps, it’s starting to look pretty promising for a great 2021 season. Fingers crossed, and we're excited to ride these new chairs!